The Silent Language

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by Edward T. Hall

In the everyday, but unspoken give-and-take of human relationships, the “silent language” plays a vitally important role. Here, a leading American anthropologist has analyzed the many ways in which people “talk” to one another without the use of words.

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The pecking order in a chicken yard, the fierce competition in a school playground, every unwitting gesture and action—this is the vocabulary of the “silent language.” According to Dr. Hall, the concepts of space and time are tools with which all human beings may transmit messages. Space, for example, is the outgrowth of an animal’s instinctive defense of his lair and is reflected in human society by the office worker’s jealous defense of his desk, or the guarded, walled patio of a Latin-American home. Similarly, the concept of time, varying from Western precision to Easter vagueness, is revealed by the businessman who pointedly keeps a client waiting, or the South Pacific islander who murders his neighbor for an injustice suffered twenty years ago.

THE SILENT LANGUAGE shows how cultural factors influence the individual behind his back, without his knowledge.” —Erich Fromm

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